N Sankar, industry icon and Chairman of Sanmar, passes away

N Sankar, Chairman of the Chennai-headquartered Sanmar Group and a veteran in PVC manufacturing and other critical sectors with significant contributions over five decades, passed away on noon after a brief illness. He was 76.

Sankar was one of the first adopters of modern manufacturing practices in India through joint ventures with foreign-domiciled companies. Sankar led the Sanmar Group through several joint ventures including Cabot Sanmar, a tie-up with the US-based Cabot group on chemicals, and several American corporations such as Flowserve, BS&B Safety, Xomox, and others.

His acumen in forging these ventures and his unique ability to make them long-standing have turned out to be guiding principles for Indian industrialists looking abroad for partnerships. His focus on corporate governance and employee engagement at group companies have been oft-quoted features about his leadership.

Sankar was born into an entrepreneurial family: his grandfather SNN Sankaralinga Iyer was one of the founders of cement manufacturer India Cements. After finishing his Master’s from the Illinois Institute of Technology, Chicago, Sankar joined his father KS Narayanan at Chemplast Sanmar at the age of 26. Five years into the business, in 1972, Sankar made borrowings from investors to buy the majority stake in a company called Industrial Chemicals and Monomers. Sankar’s bid to rope in technology to raise the quality of Indian manufacturing proved to be an enduring route for Indian businesses to raise their level of play.

On Sankar’s leadership, Venu Srinivasan, Chairman Emeritus at TVS Motor Company, said he “pushed international growth and investment to make Sanmar a leading player globally.” R Seshasayee, Vice-Chairman of the Hinduja Group said several institutions in sport and healthcare “owe him a debt of gratitude.”

Besides holding leadership positions across several public bodies such as Assocham, Sankar was also an avid sports enthusiast. The Sanmar family supports two cricket clubs, the Jolly Rovers and the Alwarpet Cricket Club. Sankar also supported tennis, which he dearly loved as cricket.

Among many felicitations, Sankar was awarded the Chemicals and Petrochemicals Award (2019) for distinguished contribution to the petrochemical industry, the Indian Chemical Council’s Lifetime Achievement Award (2015), and the Lifetime Achievement Award at TiECON Chennai (2010)

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